In this case, the judge refused to Challenge for Cause a prospective juror who had a very difficult time viewing photos of child pornography. On appeal, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the defendant's conviction because the trial court abused its discretion in not removing this juror. This case is interesting only because you wonder, after reading the colloquy, why the court would keep this juror. Here is a portion of the juror's colloquy.
MR. BETRAS: So the question becomes, even though the images are – they’re hard to look at, like I said in opening, but can you be fair and impartial? Or do you think you could no longer fulfill your job as being a fair and impartial juror in this case?
JUROR 29: I won’t be able to view the pictures or the video.
THE COURT: Excuse me?
JUROR 29: I will not be able to view the pictures or video.
THE COURT: What do you mean you will not be able to? Are you going to close your eyes? You’re saying yes, you’re going to close your eyes?
JUROR 29: Yes. I don’t – I’m sorry. Am I able to speak?
THE COURT: Sure.
JUROR 29: I don’t – I mean, I understand the context of it. I don’t think the pictures and the video, it is what it is. I know what that is. And I don’t think that’s going to – I guess it comes down to, Your Honor, when right before we left yesterday, you made the comment that do not look anything up on the internet after we leave because that stuff will stay in your brain, you can’t get it out. Your brain has a way of keeping it. And as I was driving home I thought the exact same thing with these pictures and video, and that’s the last thing I want in my head with two little kids at home.
MR. BETRAS: Well, if you’re required as a juror to look at everything that is shown to you as an exhibit and you can’t do it, do you feel you could be a juror in this case?
JUROR 29: No, I do not.
MR. BETRAS: No further questions, Your Honor.
JUROR 29: Sorry.
MR. SULLIVAN: Good morning, [Juror 29].
JUROR 29: Good morning.
MR. SULLIVAN: Okay. You understand the importance of having a jury that’s fair and impartial to the defendant and also to the government?
JUROR 29: Absolutely. That’s why I brought this up.
MR. SULLIVAN: Right. And do you understand that if we had a jury of only people who had no discomfort in viewing images of child pornography, that probably won’t be a jury that would be fair and impartial to the government? Do you understand that?
JUROR 29: I truly understand that.
MR. SULLIVAN: And these images are disturbing. They would be disturbing to any decent person; is that right?
JUROR 29: Correct.
MR. SULLIVAN: And if you were in a homicide case you might have to see some very graphic photographs of a dead body or an autopsy, and that might make you uncomfortable as well; is that fair?
JUROR 29: Fair.
MR. SULLIVAN: So as a sworn juror, if you are – I mean, you have an obligation to weigh all the evidence, as uncomfortable or as distasteful as that might be, can you understand that?
JUROR 29: That’s correct.
MR. SULLIVAN: And realizing that as a percentage of the time of the trial, the time that the jurors are going to be looking at any images or videos is going to be just a small fraction of the totality of the evidence in this case. Can you tell us whether or not you can fulfill your obligation, as uncomfortable as it may be? I’m not saying you have to stare and have it burned in your memory, but just to view the evidence for what it’s worth and then to carry on your obligation so that you can– so that the government and the defendant can both have a fair and impartial jury?
JUROR 29: I wish I could as a citizen, I really do, because I think that is the fair thing to do. It’s just – I don’t want it in my head. My two little kids, I got home last night and I just gave them a hug. And that’s the last thing I want to think about. To me it’s the lowest part of humanity, andthat’s, you know, whoever did it, that’s, you know, a good question. It’s just – I don’t want those images in my head, trying to get those out of my head for the next ten years, you know. I’ve never seen anything like that and I don’t ever intend to. It’s just disturbing. And I thought about it a lot. You know, and that’s why I think we had the small side-bars, as we come up, and I answered that one question on my questionnaire about prejudice to that sort of case. And I think it would be difficult.
The full case (U.S. v. Trent Shepard) is available here. Finally, the appellate court does point out that had the trial judge done a better job of rehabilitating the juror this case might not have been overturned.